It Rhymes with Socks

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Phlox flowers

Phlox flowers

Rachel closed her eyes to smell the tiny purple flowers. An almost sickly sweet smell flooded her senses. She knew they had a strange name, with an ‘x’ somewhere. Deep from the recesses of her memory, her mom spoke “It rhymes with socks, honey“.

Socks, Blocks…..Phlox. That was it. Phlox. She said it aloud. Phlox, phlox, phlox. The word collided with her tongue and palate over and over till it bloated and morphed into an amoeboid, anomalous word, yet vaguely familiar. Millions of tiny minions in her limbic system, suddenly charged with an unknown strength, darted off to Archives to retrieve the phlox file from a dusty back shelf.

It was the first day of her new job. Her stomach was in knots just thinking about going back to work after a two-year break. She felt like a kid who has changed schools mid-year. People and technology had moved on and fast. Would she be able to catch up?

I have confidence in sunshine, I have confidence in rain…” Maria von Trapp sang in her head at that opportune moment. She stopped for a moment and closed her eyes to smell the pink and purple phlox that lined her apartment block. Nature had always healed her and in times of stress, that’s where she took refuge.

With the familiar sweet flowery smell came an intruder. A tiny bug, unable to fight the pull of her inhalation, lodged itself in Rachel’s nose. She sneezed and snorted, it wiggled and kicked, but neither of them could get out of this sticky situation.

She sent in a wad of tissue to help it make its way out, but it only sent it deeper into hiding. Tears streamed from her eyes. The sneezes were as unstoppable as a derailed train. A trip to the emergency room was seeming increasingly inevitable.

Please let there be no waiting! She fervently hoped the universe would listen.

“Dr. Mackenzie will see you shortly.” They always say “shortly”. She decided she hated that word. She dug her fingernails into her arms and waited as the little industrious pest in her nose seemed to be digging an escape route.

Cool it, Andy Dufresne! Go towards the light! She jabbed her nose.

This was certainly not how she had imagined this day.

Dr. Lawrence Mackenzie. Sounds like an old man. He’s probably an experienced doctor.

But old doctors tend to be slow, don’t they? And some of them talk a lot. Please God, not today. Let this be quick.

A flash of white followed a sharp knock. With glasses perched on an aquiline nose, a decided chin, intelligent eyes and a smile which could melt the coldest of hearts, he didn’t look like a Lawrence Mackenzie at all.

“So Rachel, what is bothering you today? “


Andy, the bug Dufresne, brusquely brought her out of her reverie.

“I was smelling the phlox this morning when a tiny insect went up my nose.” He looked amused.

“What’s a phlox?”

“It’s a flowering plant, really pretty. “

“I’m sure it is.”

Did he just flirt with her?

“Let’s take a look, shall we?” He went straight back to business.

No wedding ring. Hmm, Perfect!

Just then, her empty stomach growled like loud, petulant child. If Dr. Gorgeous Mackenzie wasn’t already repelled by her nasal viscera, he definitely would be now.

But he didn’t seem to have noticed. His brows furrowed in concentration as he tried to get the little insect out. Minutes later, he was successful, much to Rachel’s and the bug’s relief.

He peeled off his blue gloves. “I’m getting off my shift now and it looks like you’re hungry. Do you want to grab a bite?

Oh,Thank you Andy Dufresne!

One year later, Rachel walked down the aisle which was lined with purple phlox. She was Mrs. Mackenzie and on top of the world.

Lawrence Mackenzie Jr. walked into Cedar Oak Senior Care Facility to meet his mother. It was his Saturday morning ritual. The warm sunlight caressed her little gray head as Rachel sat by the purple flowers looking nowhere in particular. “Rachel looks happy“, her nurse smiled as she walked past him. Would she recognize him?

But the limbic minions were shutting the lights off at breakneck speed. He got there just in time to catch a tiny glimmer of recognition in her eyes and a smile. If only for a split second, his mother, whom Alzheimer’s had snatched away, was back.


Pic Courtesy – Foooomio on Flickr

10 thoughts on “It Rhymes with Socks

  1. Nate

    I loved the Shawshank reference. I loved it more that you didn’t explain it. Do you suppose the bug is on a Mexican beach now sanding a boat?

    1. mixedbag Post author

      Yes! In Zihuatanejo! That’s such a funny image 🙂 It would make for a nice story, don’t you think? I might call it “A Bug’s Life”.

  2. Melony

    I really loved this cute story up til the end. I felt a bit pulled away with the wedding and then another time jump to her twilight years. But the image of the bug and her tummy grumbling was hilarious and awesome. Well done!

  3. Laura

    I giggled all through the first half, with the descriptions of her trying to remember phlox, the bug getting lodged, and her day getting totally derailed. Her saying “phlox phlox phlox” out loud cracked me up! I agree with Melony that the time jumps at the end felt a little rushed but I liked the return of the “limbic minions.”

    1. mixedbag Post author

      What gave her happiness in the end was her memory of all the incidents that were triggered by the bug. Thanks for reading and sharing this piece, Alok. Much appreciated!


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